- Legends Division
John is an inaugural member of the CatholicLink Society, which is comprised of individuals who attended/graduated from all three CatholicLink institutions: St. Francis/Notre Dame of De Pere (1966), Abbot Pennings High School (1970) and St. Norbert College (1974).
John began his 44-year journey in education as a K-8 physical education teacher at Notre Dame of De Pere from 1975-1983. In 1983, he taught English and physical education at APHS as well as acted
as recruitment/development director until the school closed. John was appointed as the first Director of Development for Notre Dame de la Baie Academy in 1990. Following his path in Catholic education, John succeeded long-time principal Joan Klister as Principal of Notre Dame in De Pere from 1991-1995. John was Principal at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Green Bay from 1995-2006, Superintendent for the Waupun Area School District in 2006-2008 and recently retired as
Superintendent of the School District of West De Pere 2008-2019. Recently, John was presented with the 2019 Founder’s Award by the Travis J. and Jessica L. Vanden Heuvel Family Foundation named in honor of Dr. Frank Shankwitz, creator and founding president of “The Make a Wish” Foundation for his dedication and selfless service to children in the Greater Green Bay Community.
His professional goal was always to give back to the school communities that have given him so much through his educational life. It only seemed like the right thing to do as his parents sacrificed so much to ensure that John and his five siblings attend Catholic schools. John considers his time teaching and coaching at Abbot Pennings High School as a highlight in his long career.
During his tenure at APHS, John coached basketball and, of course, golf, a sport he truly loves to this day. Building a solid golf team that led to three straight WISAA state championships (1986-1988) was the pinnacle of his coaching career. When addressing the team each year, John consistently said to his players, “If we don’t have at least four golfers better than me, our success will be limited.” Fortunately, and thank God, the young men that played during those years possessed the skill, passion for the game, temperament and caring attitude for each other that led to their team success. John received Coach of the Year honors during the championship years but gives the credit for those honors to his players and their parents who were so supportive of each other.
John married his high school sweetheart, Jean Van Wassenhoven (SJA, 1971), in 1975. They celebrated their 44-year wedding anniversary in June. They reside in the Town of Lawrence and have two successful adult children, Scott (NDA 1999) and Jenny (NDA 2003). John retired in July 2019 and plans to spend more time visiting Scott and his wife, Carly, in New York City and Jenny and her husband, Andy, in Johnson Creek.
Immediate goals for John would include maintaining wellness, traveling and improving his golf game, which his players know needs some work.
Congratulations to all of this year’s inductees. Thank you to the Notre Dame Academy Induction Committee for this prestigious award and opportunity to join the previous and future legends in the Triton Academic & Athletic Hall of Fame.